Tossed in an Italian-style seasoning and cooked to golden-brown perfection, these tender, juicy, and delicious vegan tofu meatballs will have you believing you are dining at an authentic Italian restaurant! The key is minced frozen tofu. They are easy to make, incredibly versatile, and ready to serve in just 40 minutes.
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Vegan meatballs are an excellent addition to any dinner table. Not only are they finger-licking good, but they are incredibly versatile. Be sure to try our other vegan meatball recipes, such as our TVP meatballs, vegan eggplant meatballs, vegan mushroom meatballs, and vegan chickpea meatballs.
What to expect from this recipe?
These tofu meatballs are packed with a combination of aromatic herbs and spices that will mimic the savory flavor of Italian meatballs but without the meat! Once seasoned, they are then pan-fried or baked to form a crispy crust with a tender and juicy interior.
While we love TVP to mimic vegan ground beef, we used minced frozen tofu to mimic ground chicken. We were pleasantly surprised when we first started using this ingredient. It is absolutely fantastic. Since then, we have loved making vegan sausage, vegan breakfast patties, and tofu burgers. It is a godsend, I tell you. So keep one tofu in your freezer all the time. You know, just in case.
Here’s why this is the best tofu meatball recipe:
- It is easy to make, using simple ingredients and equipment you likely already have at home.
- The meatballs are mouthwateringly aromatic and flavorful, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.
- It is incredibly versatile and customizable. We share several creative ways to prepare and serve your tofu meatballs in this recipe.
- Unlike some meatballs, these vegan tofu meatballs won’t fall apart when you add them to the sauce.
- The meatballs are easy to store and freezer friendly, so you can make them ahead of time or save them to eat later.
You will see why it is so easy to make. I bet you have all ingredients already in your pantry to make meaty tofu meatballs.
- Firm tofu – Frozen for at least 24 hours.
- Breadcrumbs – Use gluten-free ones if you need to.
- Cornstarch – You can also use tapioca starch.
- Dairy-free milk – We recommend oat, almond, or cashew milk.
- Onion (Finely chopped)
- Garlic (Finely chopped)
- Olive oil – To make it juicy.
- Worcestershire sauce – There is a vegan and gluten-free brand we also use. Alternatively, opt for soy sauce or tamari.
- Oregano (dried)
- Basil (dried)
- Nutritional yeast
- Salt and black Pepper
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Use frozen tofu that has been in your fridge for at least 24 hours. Thaw overnight.
- Squeeze the thawed tofu hard using your hand. You should have a sponge-like texture at the end.
- Using a food processor, chop the tofu into small crumble-like pieces. They will have a chewy, bouncy texture, just like minced chicken.
Making onion-garlic puree
Why should you not skip this step? We use acclaimed chef, Joe Sasto’s method to make onion less aromatic, but sweeter. This puree also adds the necessary juiciness compared to other tofu meatballs recipes. I guarantee you that the texture will be the best you ever tasted.
- Preheat a frying pan or skillet over medium heat.
- Add one tablespoon of olive oil and the finely chopped onion and garlic.
- Cook the onion and garlic over medium-low heat until they become tender but not caramelized. They should have an opaque, yellow color.
- Move the onion and garlic with the remaining oil to a bowl and blend it using a hand blender.
Making tofu meatballs
- In a large mixing bowl, add the tofu crumbles, breadcrumbs, dairy-free milk, cornstarch, onion and garlic, one tablespoon of olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, basil, salt, black pepper, and nutritional yeast.
- Mix well using a spatula or with your hands.
- Use your hands to roll the meatball into small balls (approximately 1 Tbsp size).
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add a bit of coconut or olive oil and fry them on each side for a couple of minutes until they reach a nice brown color. You will not need to add oil if it is a non-stick frying pan.
If baking the tofu balls in the oven, preheat the oven to 390 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 199 °C). Then take a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake them for approximately 15-20 minutes.
- Use frozen, thawed tofu – For the best results, use frozen tofu. Raw tofu will be too moist and spongy, even after pressing.
- Completely dry the tofu – The tofu must be completely dry to the touch before mincing it with the food processor. Otherwise, the recipe will fail. That is why we recommend squeezing the tofu with your hands or with the help of a milk bag to really get it dry.
- Bake (or fry) before simmering in sauce – To prevent the meatballs from falling apart after adding sauce, we recommend baking or frying first to form a crispy outer crust.
You can customize these tofu meatballs to fit your unique taste and preferences in several ways. Here are a few of them:
- Fresh herbs: Use fresh basil and oregano instead of their dried counterpart. You can also add fresh parsley, but you will need to adjust the other green herbs to keep the same total quantity per the recipe card.
- Different herbs: Instead of basil and oregano, try combining rosemary, thyme, and sage for a different flavor profile.
- Extra spices: Kick up the flavor and heat level by adding chili powder, ground peppers, or crushed red pepper flakes into the meatball mix.
- Different sauces: Mix things up using our homemade marinara sauce, caramelized carrot pasta sauce, vegan cashew alfredo sauce, or vegan mac and cheese sauce as a meatball sauce or glaze.
When it comes to serving tofu meatballs, the possibilities are almost endless! Here are many vegan-friendly ways you can serve up these delicious crowd-pleasers:
- Sandwich: Make a saucy vegan meatball sub with our hearty vegan marinara sauce.
- Sliders: Make meatball sliders using biscuits.
- Pita: Stuff pita bread with veggies, add your meatballs, and top them with your favorite vegan yogurt dip or vegan tzatziki.
- Skewers: Add the meatballs to a skewer stick alongside some vegan BBQ sauce or vegan nacho cheese sauce for an easy appetizer.
- Shakshuka – Add the meatballs to your vegan chickpea shakshuka to make it more filling.
- Mac and cheese – Take your vegan mac and cheese to the next level and stir in some tofu meatballs for additional flavor
- Casserole – Throw them in the oven with your favorite pasta, one of our creamy vegan pasta sauces, and top with grated cheese to make a pasta bake or casserole.
- With veggies: Make a filling, hearty dinner meal and serve your meatballs alongside vegan mashed potatoes or fried rice. Get your veggies in by adding some roasted roasted asparagus and mushroom, or sauteed carrots.
- Pizza – Make a “meaty” vegan pizza with tender meatballs as a topping.
- Food processor
- Tofu press – We recommend the TofuBud press as it is quick, easy, and will do it so without any mess or waste.
- Cast iron skillet or frying pan – We use the one from UnoCasa.
In the fridge: Store the meatballs in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Store the sauces separately to prevent the meatballs from soaking up the sauce and falling apart.
In the freezer: These tofu meatballs are freezer-friendly after being cooked. We do not recommend freezing as an uncooked mixture, as the meatballs will be too moist when thawed.
Thawing: To thaw, warm them under the broiler, in the oven, or in a frying pan to make the crust crispy again.
The breadcrumbs in the recipe help to bind the meatballs and prevent them from falling apart. However, if you do not have breadcrumbs, you can use any other combination of grains as a binding agent. We recommend rice or quinoa with tapioca flour or arrowroot starch. Vegan eggs can also help bind the meatballs.
Whether you bake or pan-fry your tofu meatballs is all up to your personal preference. Baking your tofu meatballs omits the oil but results in a dryer texture. On the other hand, pan-frying meatballs will add oil to the recipe but results in juicier meatballs. When added to vegan pasta sauce, the difference is minimal.
If you don’t have a food processor, we recommend using a large-hole cheese grater. Both methods will give you a fine crumbly texture.
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Pre-cooking onion and garlic
- Take a frying pan or skillet and pre-heat to medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and the finely chopped onion and garlic. Cook on medium-low heat the onion and garlic until tender but opaque, yellow, and not caramelized.
- Add onion and garlic with the remaining oil to a bowl and blend it with a hand blender.
- For the best result, use frozen tofu. Thaw it overnight, then squeeze it hard. Use your hand or a milk bag. You will have a sponge-like texture at the end.
- Use a food processor to chop the tofu into smaller crumble-like pieces.
Mixing and forming meatballs
- Add tofu crumbles, breadcrumbs, dairy-free milk, cornstarch, onion and garlic paste, 1 Tbsp olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, basil, salt, black pepper, and nutritional yeast to a large mixing bowl. Mix everything well with a spatula or with your hands.
- Form small balls (1 Tbsp size) with your hands.
Baking or frying
- Bake the tofu meatballs in a preheated oven of 390 Fahrenheit (ca. 199 °C) for 15-20 minutes.
- Or take a frying pan and heat it on medium heat. Add a bit of coconut or olive oil if you don’t have a non-stick pan. Fry them on each side for a couple of minutes to give them a nice brown color.
- Serving suggestions above the recipe card!